Osaka: Crises conquered, troupe celebrates centennial with eye on future

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Top star Yan Rin, center, and other members spin pink parasols in a performance at the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the OSK Nippon Revue Company on Jan. 30 at Osaka Shochikuza Theater in Osaka.

OSAKA — A revue company known for its spectacular song and dance performances celebrated its centennial in April after overcoming myriad crises over the years.

The OSK Nippon Revue Company was founded in Osaka on April 1, 1922, as a girls’ dance troupe affiliated with the city’s Shochikuza Theater and became popular for its precisely performed line dances.

People came to compare it to the Takarazuka Revue, a similar all-female troupe, while saying, “Takarazuka for singing, OSK for dancing.” OSK is short for Osaka Shochiku Kagekidan (Osaka Shochiku opera troupe).

The Osaka Theater in Sennichimae, Osaka, which was the home of the revue, burned down during an air raid in World War II. The theater was soon rebuilt, and the company resumed performances.

The 1950s were the golden age for OSK, producing such stars as Shizuko Kasagi, a singer who represented the postwar period in Japan, and Machiko Kyo, an actor who appeared in numerous postwar films.

In 2003, however, OSK was disbanded for financial reasons. It had been affiliated with the Kintetsu Group since 1971, but Kintetsu became unable to continue supporting the revue.

The members themselves stepped up to save their troupe from the crisis by collecting signatures and sponsorships from 190,000 people, and OSK restarted as a company supported by the public.

However, the balance sheets did not improve until 2018, when the revue became a subsidiary of the Osaka-based technology company Nextware Ltd.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Never give up

During this period, many struggled to keep the lights on at a cultural tradition born in Osaka.

The Spring Dance at Osaka Shochikuza Theater, which was an OSK event that became a popular spring tradition, was revived in 2004 for the first time in 66 years. Nobuhiko Shirai, then director of Shochiku Co., made strenuous efforts to restart the event.

In 2012, the business community formed a committee to support the revue. Shigeo Sato, then chairman of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, took the lead in establishing the committee, in which about 100 participating companies help cover the revue’s operating costs.

“The power to never give up, the vitality, is one of OSK’s traditions,” said Yan Rin, a top star of the troupe, at the commemorative ceremony held in Osaka in January. The words she spoke on behalf of the revue’s 63 members were moving.

World Expo opportunity

OSK is now facing a new challenge: the coronavirus pandemic. The revue attracted about 34,000 spectators in 2021, or 87% of the 2019 figure, before the pandemic broke out.

The company believes the key to the future is getting people from all over the world to see its shows because the troupe features singing and dancing, which even foreigners who do not understand Japanese can enjoy.

Since the summer of 2020, performances have been broadcast on a large-screen TV at a cafe in Shinsaibashi, Osaka, and livestreamed online, attracting more than 50,000 visitors to the shop and via the internet.

OSK is looking forward to a recovery in foreign visitors to Japan and sees Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai as a great opportunity.

The revue will focus on performances and livestreaming while waiting for a recovery in foreign tourists.

In the meantime, commemorative events are continuing this year and all eyes are on whether the troupe can sing and dance its way to another golden age.